It's often hard to tell who's driving a particular technology trend in today's competitive and often chaotic telecom market. I was a bit worried to be assigned the task of picking the Top 5 movers and shakers in the NFV realm. (See Top 5 NFV Movers & Shakers.)
Back in the early days of my career as a telecom reporter, that wasn't the case -- there were well-defined organizations and carefully proscribed research groups within the large (at that time, monolithic) carriers and equipment vendors. Technology changes happened at a glacial pace and on well-defined schedules. Much of the process happened in the public eye, since contracts were announced as vendor trophies.
As telecom network operators began to compete with each other more directly, however, this orderly process changed -- or at the very least, became much less public. As most telecom network hardware and software providers will tell you, their service provider customers are rarely interested in talking about what they are buying, how they plan to deploy new gear, or what their business plans are for the future.
There are obvious reasons for this. Unlike US cable operators, who continue to serve contiguous territories that don't overlap, telecom network operators compete, many on a global basis, for the same set of customers. Any technology advantage is to be savored and exploited, not necessarily shared.
But when it comes to major network transformations, such as virtualization, there is still the need for a driving force. In the case of network functions virtualization (NFV), that force has been the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) NFV Industry Specifications Group.
Because that group was put together by carriers and continues to be led by carriers, it was a far easier task to assemble a list of the top five movers and shakers in NFV than it would have been otherwise.
I fully expect the very public work of this group to continue –- in the short term. In a year or two however, when the very public efforts to get the industry moving faster in the virtualization direction have taken hold, I expect these very same carriers to go back to their usual way of doing business.
At that point, this kind of list will either become much harder to create, or will be thoroughly dominated by the vendors who will move into the spotlight vacated by network operators.
In the meantime, check out our inaugural Top 5 NFV Movers & Shakers list in the Prime Reading section of the site, and feel free to give us your feedback in the comments.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading